If you dream of owning a business, the first question you need to ask yourself is what type of small business you want to start. And if you’re looking for an industry with plenty of opportunity and flexibility, one successful business model you may want to consider? Carpet cleaning.
There is a ton of opportunity out there for carpet cleaning business owners. According to data from IBISWorld, the carpet cleaning industry is expected to drive $4.6 billion in revenue in 2021.
So, the question is, how, exactly, do you start a successful carpet cleaning company? What is involved with building a carpet cleaning business from the ground up? And once your business is up and running, how can you spread the word and start finding customers?
Why You Should Consider Starting a Carpet Cleaning Business
First things first—before we jump into how to start a carpet cleaning business, let’s cover why you might want to consider opening a business in the carpet cleaning industry to begin with.
There are a variety of reasons why carpet cleaning can be a great opportunity for business owners, including:
- There is an abundance of opportunity. A large percentage of buildings, both commercial and residential, have carpet covering at least some of the square footage—and those carpets need to be cleaned on a regular basis, which presents a huge opportunity for carpet cleaning business owners.
- It can be lucrative. According to industry data from Strong Carpet Cleaning Systems, carpet cleaners can make between .35 to .50 cents per square foot depending on the services offered—which can translate to upwards of $150 per hour.
- It offers flexibility. When you own a carpet cleaning company, you’re the person in the driver’s seat. You can decide how many clients to work with, when and how much you work, and how much you charge for your services.
Clearly, starting a business that offers carpet cleaning services can be a huge opportunity…But what are the steps you need to take to get your professional carpet cleaning business up and running, find new customers, and start booking jobs?
Determine What Type of Carpet Cleaning Company You’re Going to Start
The first step in building a successful carpet cleaning empire? Determining what kind of business you want to build—and, more specifically, what type of services your carpet cleaning company is going to offer customers.
As mentioned, because so many buildings feature carpeting, there are a ton of opportunities out there—and if you want your new business to thrive, you need to narrow in on which of those opportunities you’re going to take advantage of.
When determining which business model is right for you, there are two main decisions you need to make:
Commercial Carpet Cleaning vs. Residential Carpet Cleaning Services
Washing 800 feet of carpeting in a home is a completely different ballgame than washing 30,000 square feet of carpet in a commercial building; building a business around large commercial jobs requires a completely different approach than working with homeowners on individual jobs. So, before you get too far into building your carpet cleaning business, you’ll want to decide which avenue you want to take—commercial or residential.
There’s no right or wrong decisions; both business models have advantages and disadvantages. For example, commercial buildings are generally larger than individual homes, which means you’ll make more per job—but they’re also time consuming, so you won’t be able to take on as many clients. Residential jobs, on the other hand, don’t take as much time, which means you’ll be able to take on a higher volume of clients—but because the space is smaller, you won’t make as much per job as you would tackling commercial projects. Commercial buildings have a lot of traffic, so their carpets are likely to need more intense cleaning than you would find in an individual home—but because they’re operating a business out of the space (and, in many cases, serving the public), they’re more likely to commit to a regular carpet cleaning schedule. Residential carpets will likely be easier to clean—but because they don’t see as much traffic, clients may only need their carpets cleaned a few times per year.
Franchising vs. Starting Your Own Operation
The other big decision you need to make when starting your carpet cleaning company is if you want to build it from the ground up—or if you want to become a franchisee for an existing carpet cleaning company.
Again, both models have their advantages and disadvantages. When you build a business from the ground up, you’re in total control of everything from work volume to work hours to pricing—but getting your name out there, finding clients, and getting to a sustainable level of work can be a challenge. On the flip side, when you open a franchise business, you get the benefit of operating under a brand that already has recognition in the market, which can make it easier to find clients—but because you’re operating under that business’ name, you also have to operate according to their rules, which provides less flexibility as a business owner.
Ultimately, you have to weigh the pros and cons and decide which business model (commercial vs. residential and franchising vs. independently owned) is best for you—but make sure to make that decision early on, so you can build your business plan and strategy around it.
Create a Business Plan
Once you’ve decided what type of carpet cleaning operation you want to start, it’s time to create your business plan.
Think of your business plan as a roadmap; it gives you clear direction on how to get from where you are to where you want to go—and lays out the steps you need to take to get your business up and running.
Your business plan should include:
- Business name. What is your business name going to be?
- Target market. Who are your ideal customers?
- Competitor analysis. What businesses do you consider competitors? What type of carpet cleaning services are they providing? How is your business different—and how are you going to communicate that to your target customers?
- Startup budget. Before you launch your business, you need to know how much capital you need to cover your startup costs, including equipment, marketing costs, and staffing costs—and how you’re going to spend that money.
- Services. What kind of carpet services are you going to offer your customers?
- Pricing structure. How are you going to charge your customers for those services? For example, are you going to charge by the hour or by square feet?
- Operational strategy. How do you plan to run your business? What will your day-to-day operations look like?
- Staffing needs. Are you going to hire additional carpet cleaners? If so, how many people are you going to bring on board—and how much are you going to pay them?
- Marketing strategy. How do you plan to market your business, connect with your customers, and sell your services?
- Revenue goals. What are your revenue goals for your first year in business?
Drafting a business plan takes time and effort—but it’s time and effort well spent. A detailed business plan will give you clear direction on how to start, manage, and grow your carpet cleaning operation—and will set you up for success in the long term.
Take Care of the Logistics of Launching a New Business
When you start any new business—including in the carpet cleaning industry—there are certain logistical steps you’ll need to take to legitimize your business, including:
- Registering your company. If you’re planning on being a solo operation, you do have the option to work as a sole proprietorship—but if you’re going to be launching a full-fledged carpet cleaning company, you’re going to need to register your business entity with all the proper channels in your area. You’ll also need to secure any business licenses you need to operate legally in your state.
- Opening a business bank account. Separating business finances and personal finances is a must—so before you start buying things for your business or accepting payment from clients, it’s important to open up a business bank account.
- Getting proper training. Carpet cleaning involves using various equipment, chemicals, solvents, and cleaning solutions—which you are probably not familiar with if you haven’t worked in the industry before. A professional certification program—like the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), which offers a variety of certifications for the carpet cleaning industry—can be a great way to get up to speed on everything you need to know to operate your business safely and efficiently.
- Securing insurance. Accidents can happen on the job. And, if they do, you want to make sure you and your staff are protected—which is why you’ll want to secure any necessary insurance before you start taking on jobs, like liability insurance or workers’ compensation insurance. Want to ensure you never overpay or underpay for workers’ compensation insurance? Hourly simplifies the workers’ comp process by syncing payroll data to workers’ comp in real time, calculating premiums with to-the-penny accuracy—helping you avoid costly, time-consuming audits.
Stock up on Carpet Cleaning Equipment and Cleaning Supplies
If you’re going to clean carpets, you need to get the right cleaning supplies and equipment—and you need to do it before you start booking jobs.
The supplies and equipment you’ll need will depend on your cleaning method and the services you plan to offer. For example, if you’re going to use the hot water extraction method, you’ll need an extractor. If you’re going to use the dry carpet cleaning method, you’ll need to get the right cleaning products to pretreat the carpet fibers and break down the dirt before you vacuum.
Bottom line? Figure out what supplies, equipment, and cleaning products you’ll need for the carpet cleaning services you plan to offer your customers—and make sure to secure those supplies, equipment, and products before you start taking on carpet cleaner jobs.
Get the Word out about Your Carpet Cleaning Business
You’ve done all the work on the backend to get your business up, running, and ready for customers—and now, it’s time to get the word out and start booking carpet cleaning gigs.
When it comes to your marketing plan, there are a variety of ways you can market your carpet cleaning business, including:
- Social media. Location-based social media apps like NextDoor can be a great tool for building buzz around your new business and connecting with potential customers in your local area.
- Advertising. Advertising, whether that’s through traditional (like flyers or newspaper ads) or digital mediums (like Google AdWords) can be a great way to get your new business in front of the customers you want to work with.
- Cold calling. If you’re launching a commercial carpet cleaning business, cold calling local business owners or commercial property owners can be a great way to make an introduction.
- Word of mouth marketing. Once you start taking on carpet cleaning gigs, your existing clients can play a huge role in marketing your business. After you complete a job, ask customers to leave a positive review on Google or Yelp, share referrals (like a neighbor who needs their carpet cleaned), or write a testimonial for your website.
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Carpet Cleaning Company?
If you’re thinking about starting a carpet cleaning company, you’re probably concerned about cost. How much capital do you need to get your business up and running?
While the cost to start your business will vary based on a number of factors, there are a few startup costs you’ll definitely want to consider, including:
- Cleaning equipment. The costs for cleaning equipment will depend on your cleaning method. If you plan to go the hot water extraction route, plan to pay between $2000 and $4000 for a portable extractor. If you plan to offer low moisture carpet cleaning, expect to shell out between $3000 and $8000 for the necessary equipment.
- Cleaning supplies. Depending on the types of supplies you need and the volume of cleaning jobs you’re tackling, monthly costs for detergent, stain removers, and cleaning solvents will start around $200 per month—and for a higher volume of work, can easily cost you thousands each month.
- Registration and insurance costs. Depending on where you’re starting your business, expect to pay somewhere in the $150 to $300 range for your initial business registration. You can also expect to pay another $200 to $1000 per year in insurance costs, depending on your coverage.
- Transportation costs. You’ll need transportation to get you and your equipment to and from jobs—typically a van or a truck, which, if you need to purchase, can run anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000.
- Marketing costs. Marketing is one of your business’ most variable costs; you can rely on word-of-mouth marketing and spend zero on marketing—or you can launch a largescale digital advertising campaign and spend $20,000 in a month. Many new businesses fall somewhere in the middle, spending between $5000 and $10,000 on their initial marketing push.
- Franchising fees. If you decide to open a carpet cleaning franchise, be prepared to pay up; between franchising and marketing fees, you can easily spend over $35,000 getting your business up and running.
Clearly, the costs of starting a carpet cleaning business can vary widely—but spending anywhere between $5000 and $80,000 is a reasonable estimate.
Bottom Line: Is a Carpet Cleaning Business Profitable?
Now that you know the steps to take to build a carpet cleaning business from the ground up, you’re armed with the information you need to get your own carpet cleaning operation up and running.
But you probably have one key question, and that’s “is starting a carpet cleaning business profitable?”
And the answer is—it certainly can be. If you can keep startup costs low (like opening your own business instead of a franchise to avoid franchising fees and starting with smaller jobs so you don’t have to invest in too much equipment) find the right clients, and develop a pricing strategy that works for you and your customers, you can absolutely turn a profit with a carpet cleaning business—and turn your business into a lucrative, long-term career.